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    Social Marketing Changes How Customers Connect, Converse With Brands

    NACStech speaker Paul Ollinger says he's learned two key "truths" about social media.

    NASHVILLE -- At this week's NACStech conference, Paul Ollinger, CEO of The Absolutely Huge Co., shared social media insights with attendees and had many anecdotes to share from time spent at his previous employer, Facebook.

    Social media can help retailers build their businesses and have real influence on their profitability, brand and consumer relationships -- even if they're late to the party, Ollinger said during his opening session speech. During his tenure at Facebook, Ollinger said he learned two key "truths" about social media. First, the Internet is really just a bunch of cat videos, and second, users must be authentic.

    Anyone behind a computer screen is likely searching for "nuggets of joy," whether it's entertainment, the "cuteness" factor (like cats) or simply for mental breaks. But many web surfers are also embracing social media as a platform for connecting with others who share a common belief, passion or goal.

    Authenticity, or lack thereof, can make or break a brand in the social media space. Ollinger explained that even though Facebook wasn't the pioneer in connecting people online, what set the platform apart was its approach: users posting authentic data about themselves.

    "Facebook is who you are" -- not avatars and fake screen names, he said.

    Ollinger told the story of how one disgruntled United Airlines traveler wreaked havoc on the airline brand -- which suffered a significant financial loss -- by creating a YouTube video that went viral, as well as a book based on his frustrating experience trying to recoup costs and an apology for a broken guitar. On the flip side, JCPenney came under fire by anti-gay/lesbian groups for naming Ellen DeGeneres as its spokesperson. The company didn't waiver from its choice throughout the negative attacks, and as a result, the brand did not suffer and the company probably benefited with a stronger brand.

    The great thing about social media, noted Ollinger, is that you have the opportunity to rewrite the rules. Facebook has essentially given advertisements relevancy and social context by allowing consumers to "like" a brand or product.

    Look for complete coverage of NACStech 2012 in upcoming issues of Convenience Store News and NACS Magazine.  

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